Fine, let’s do this. Last year’s entry is here, though both it and that of the year before are still on the front page, too.
Apparently I finished 64 books in 2011. Specifically, these:
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet Reif Larsen
The Stuff of Thought Steven Pinker
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Haruki Murakami
The Humans Who Went Extinct Clive Finlayson
Chronic City Jonathan Lethem
Why Beauty Is Truth Ian Stewart
The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro
Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami
Letters to a Young Mathematician Ian Stewart
The Jungle Books Rudyard Kipling
Die Verwandlung Franz Kafka
South of the Border, West of the Sun Haruki Murakami
The Brain that Changes Itself Norman Doidge
Special Topics in Calamity Physics Marisha Pessl
A Wild Sheep Chase Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
Oblivion: Stories David Foster Wallace
Sputnik Sweetheart Haruki Murakami
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
1089 and All That: a Journey Into Mathematics David Acheson
Bad Science Ben Goldacre
The Lightness of Being Frank Wilczek
Dance Dance Dance Haruki Murakami
Birthday Stories Haruki Murakami (ed.)
Lights Out in Wonderland Peter “DBC Pierre” Finlay
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Underground Haruki Murakami
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach Stuart Russell, Peter Norvig
McSweeney’s Thirty-Two Dave Eggers (ed.)
The Corrections Jonathan Franzen
Content and Consciousness Daniel Dennett
De Eeuwige Terugkeer van het Fascisme Rob Riemen
The Ascent of Man Jacob Bronowski
after the quake Haruki Murakami
The Bottom Billion Paul Collier
Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
The Crucible Arthur Miller
Remarkable Creatures Sean B. Carroll
Flaubert’s Parrot Julian Barnes
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Haruki Murakami
Foundation Isaac Asimov
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman Haruki Murakami
After Dark Haruki Murakami
Taming the Infinite Ian Stewart
The Grand Design Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow
Schaum’s Outlines: Logic John Nolt, Dennis Rohatyn, Achille Varzi
Hitch-22 Christopher Hitchens
I Shall Wear Midnight Terry Pratchett
The Discomfort Zone Jonathan Franzen
Alex’s Adventures in Numberland Alex Bellos
The Magic of Reality Richard Dawkins
1000 Years of Annoying the French Stephen Clarke
Mathematics Without Fear Lawrence Potter
Mathematics of Life Ian Stewart
Ubik Philip K. Dick
Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs
Go the Fuck to Sleep Adam Mansbach
Chaos James Gleick
Fury Salman Rushdie
I Am Number Four James Frey, Jobie Hughes
Warped Passages Lisa Randall
The Emperor of All Maladies Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Beetle Richard Marsh
The Rational Optimist Matt Ridley
Would’ve been more, except I bought a DS in July and Pokémon has interfered with my reading. My goal for the year was 50, as it always is, so I did at least make that.
I also said 2011 was going to be the year in which I read everything Haruki Murakami has ever written (that I hadn’t read the year before), and while I didn’t do that, I got a lot closer than I did for Margaret Atwood in 2010; I read everything he’s ever written that’s been translated to English and released outside of Japan (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 have been translated into English, but those translations were never released outside of Japan), except for 1Q84, which I did buy and start in, but didn’t manage to finish.
I can’t recommend you try to do this. Any individual book of Murakami’s is pretty good to great, but reading all of them that quickly will make you dislike either the books or Murakami himself. His non-fiction is merely boring for the most part, but the shared aspects of his fiction show him to be an unpleasant, frustrated little man.
I’ve written reviews of nearly everything I’ve read, so if you’re looking for those I suggest you go to GoodReads.
Since I did this last year, I might as well do it now:
Better than expected
The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, was surprisingly good. It’s about cancer and the history of cancer research, and it’s pretty US-centric but otherwise very interesting. Since everyone will either get cancer themselves or be close to someone who will, there’s really nobody who can afford not to read it.
Warped Passages by Lisa Randall is possibly the best pop-sci treatment of modern physics I’ve seen, despite Lisa Randall being a pretty unpleasant person. As I said in my review, it’s possibly the first book in its genre that I’ve read that didn’t leave me feeling like modern physics is just too complicated and esoteric now to be viable subject matter for pop sci.
The Beetle by Richard Marsh is the only fiction entry here; a decade or so ago my expectations of it would have been spot on, but years of Lovecraft and Stoker and (even worse) their imitators have destroyed my expectations of classic horror and left me cynical.
Worse than expected
Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. This is the same Ridley who wrote The Red Queen, which I gave five stars in 2008. Apparently he’s like Penn & Teller in that he’s only capable of intelligent discourse on subjects on which his political masters have no opinion; for P&T this is the Cato Institute, for Ridley it’s the British Tory party.
Oh, and Hitch-22, by Christopher Hitchens, I guess. I never really cared for him and my expectations weren’t too high, but he still managed to be worse than I imagined. I’m not even talking about the casual misogyny everyone has come to expect of him by now; I’m talking about how every position Hitchens has ever held he has only held because his father or his brother have held the opposite. He sure wasted shit-tons of paper on rationalisations trying to convince himself otherwise, though.
Like last year, there are also a lot of books that were shit that I expected to be, and books that were good that I expected to be. GoodReads lets you sort by rating, if you’re interested.
Either way, discuss.